‘The Enlightenment’ laid the foundations for the world in which we live – it was the historical staging ground for an intellectual ferment across Europe and America.
It is the term used to describe that crucial, exciting period between the late 17th century and the French Revolution: the great age of rationalism and tolerance, an age of boundless curiosity about the physical universe and the nature of the human mind, a rejection of superstition and a growing reliance on observation and experiment to arrive at the truth.
Here is an enthralling journey which, at every level – from coffee-house conversation to astronomy, from voyages of discovery to the investigation of dreams, from the first dictionaries and encyclopaedias to new attitudes to marriage and the rights of women – reflects the intellectual revolution that transformed, and is still transforming, our consciousness.
Dorinda Outram places ideas in their widest possible context and looks at what ‘enlightenment’ meant to contemporaries how it affected day-to-day life – the spread of reading; open discussion of religion; relations between the sexes; self-knowledge; scientific research and advances in medicine. She assesses the long-term impact of the Enlightenment, balancing its darker consequences with its overall force for good.
Includes biographies of the major personalities, a chronology, a selection of sites where the ambience of the Enlightenment can still be experienced, over 300 pages and nearly 400 illustrations researched from the widest range of sources.